Notschool.net is an Online Learning Community offering an alternative to traditional education for young people who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to engage with school or other complementary provisions such as home tutoring or specialist units.
It was the first virtual school in the United Kingdom.
Notschool.net targets young people disengaged from classroom learning because of: Illness or phobia, Pregnancy, Bullying or disaffection, Travelling, Reluctance to learn Exclusion, In care. It is primarily aimed at the 14-16 age range, although both younger and older teenagers also use its services. It is the only virtual alternative provision that is considered to be 'full-time off site attendance'. It was developed in conjunction with and has been supported by the DfE.
Since it started as a research project in 2000, Notschool has supported over 5500 individual students (known as researchers) helping over 98% back into lifelong learning and employment. Many young people stay with the project for in excess of 18 months, so the number of "student years" is more than this.
Over the last five years, 65-70% of Notschool.net students successfully pass onto college or work based learning. Of these, 45-60% go to college, and the remainder to work-based learning. Between 25 and 30% go directly into work.
To support the annual average population of 750 young people, around 190 staff are used. (around 90 FTE posts): 126 mentors (part time, working 1 day a week each); 6 experts (though there are more experts who are also mentors); 50 regional team people (these are our people on the ground); and 3 in the core team.
Notschool mentors develop individual learning plans with each of their researchers. Accreditation is through the NCFE awarding body although Notschool focuses on re-engagement above accreditation. Nationally, 99% of Notschool researchers achieve 2 or more certificates. A part A award is equivalent to entry level (pre GCSE) and a part B is equivalent to level 1 (D-G at GCSE). However, many of the ‘lower end’ certificates do not have a point score and are not recognized by FE institutions or training providers.
Notschool.net works on a ration of 1 mentor to between 4 and 6 researchers. Each mentor is contracted for a set weekly number of hours (7-8 hours for 4-6 researchers) and submits a weekly online report about each researcher. Researchers are not allowed to attend any other form of training or learning. The total cost of a place is around £8000 per annum, though the actual figure is unclear. This is partly because places are subsidized through DCSF funding and because Notschool negotiates individual agreements with Local Authorities without a set national model.
The average stay is just over 18 months. Many researchers join in the autumn of their year 10 and stay on to the July of their year 11. Notschool thinks it needs at least 6 months to really make a difference. It also takes younger students from years 8 and 9.
Its web site is